Dear ISD Community,
I want to begin by thanking the over 3200 participants in our recent ThoughtExchange. With over 6,700 thoughts shared and over 170,000 ratings we have learned a lot about what many in our community have experienced as we were ordered to move in an unprecedented fashion into a Remote Teaching /At Home Learning system. A final report from our most recent ThoughtExchange will be available in the coming days on the ISD website.
While individual experiences have varied across our system, trends were readily seen from the thousands of exchange responses as well as the hundreds of emails and conversations we have had with students, staff, parents/guardians and community members. Three very clear areas of needed improvement and consistency in our approach to Remote Teaching emerged:
- there is a strong desire for teachers to utilize a single common platform for Remote Teaching, particularly from families with multiple children at different grade levels,
- more consistent live virtual interactions between teachers and their students, and
- the need for consistent direct instruction from our teachers either through pre-recorded instructional lessons or live virtual teaching rather than rote assignments.
We conducted the ThoughtExchange because as a District we value your feedback and are committed to being better prepared for future remote teaching. Because the Issaquah School District is committed to high expectations for the learning experiences of our students, we will use what we are learning from the experiences of students, families, administrators, and teachers this spring to inform our plans for learning, teaching, and working when we are able to reopen schools.
A step in that direction begins with my excitement to report that in collaboration with our teachers a district selection committee recommended and the District administration approved the use of the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) for our middle and high school teachers and students beginning in the 2020-21 school year. Our commitment is to have all secondary staff using the Canvas LMS when classes resume this fall. We are currently implementing a professional development plan that will introduce our teachers to a three hour training on Canvas in the coming weeks followed by additional training opportunities in July and August. Additional professional development opportunities will be available throughout the school year to support teachers and help them refine their use of the Canvas LMS as teachers and students grow in their fluency of use.
We are also working with our elementary teachers around the use of SeeSaw and Microsoft Teams for their continued and expanded use in the fall to provide a consistent learning platform for elementary students and families.
In addition, we will also continue working with our teachers and certificated support staff on implementing best practices related to virtual interactions such as class meetings, small group tutoring sessions, office hour interactions such as those with school counselors, and live synchronous virtual instruction. Moreover, we recognize the need for more direct asynchronous instruction in the form of pre-recorded video lessons in which the students’ teachers are delivering new skills, concepts and curriculum.
Currently there is a lot of speculation and concern about what our return to school this fall might look like. The big question that will have a tremendous impact on what the 2020-21 school looks like in the fall is whether or not we will be required to maintain social distancing. If public schools are required to maintain social distancing, then it is highly likely that we will have to implement some hybrid form of teaching that includes in-person schooling along with remote teaching. We also recognize that if we experience another big outbreak in COVID19 cases, the State may close our schools again and we will be ordered back into Remote Teaching/At Home Learning. If this occurs we recognize that we have to make that transition much more fluid and timely than we did this past March in order to minimize loss of instruction and learning.
The past three months have been a challenging time for our community and our country. Mobilizing our district to support our students, staff, and community remotely has not come without challenges, but we have learned so much along the way. I reflect often on the support, feedback, and grace our community has given the ISD during this difficult time. We have much work to do as we prepare for a new school year in September where there are still so many unanswered questions. The remote learning situation that was thrust upon our system in March was sudden and unexpected, and while our staff did their best to respond to this difficult situation, we know that as a system we can do better. Your feedback is a valuable tool as we move forward in providing the best learning experience for our students.
I hope your family stays safe and healthy, and please know the ISD looks forward to partnering with our community as we navigate the changing landscape ahead.